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How ingratitude can help in politics*

Sharp practitioners of today’s electoral politics know that gratitude can be a liability.

Only 17 months ago, Nassau Executive Edward P. Mangano brandished a report by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority that he said showed the county to be heading towards insolvency. He’d call NIFA “the New York state watchdog agency” — and said it was the state that “gave Nassau County a fresh start” with $100 million a decade ago.

Underdog Mangano won. Now he’s warring with NIFA over his budget. And now, there’s no time even for a hat tip between him and the board. Any warmth turned to smoke when NIFA declared a control period. *

As expected, Mangano was among the VIP’s on hand last week when Sarah Palin appeared on his home turf at the Crest Hollow Country Club. Palin had time for this visit — reaping a confidential fee and nice southern exposure — because she quit as Alaska governor after two-and-a-half years in office. Full commitment to her first elected term might have shown more gratitude to Alaskans, but gosh, do we lamestreamers have to single her out again?

Point heard, Palin fans. Let’s move on to President Barack Obama who was puckishly labeled an “ingrate” last year by one Wall Street Journal scribe after Obama said: “You don't blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college.” Hey, the suggestion went, wasn’t Nevada’s own U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid taking enough of a hit for “Obamacare”?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode to the top of the state on a Democratic horse. Is he being ungrateful these days to the side-stream Working Families Party,which endorsed him, by demanding expiration of an income tax surcharge on top earners?

Suffolk Executive Steve Levy once carried his county’s Democratic banner, but switched. If he and his former party fell into mutual ingratitude, nobody seems to dwell on it any more. Frugality, not gratitude, comes off as Levy’s civic virtue — at least regarding public dollars — in this election year.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a lot of mileage out of the idea that being a billionaire means he owes nobody. But in his third term, this no-gratitude appeal may be wearing thin given a big contracting scandal, a big controversial appointment and other problems.
Feeling indebted may reflect a good conscience in personal relations. Politically, there just seems to be no time for it.

*Mea culpa: I erroneously had it that NIFA was to meet tomorrow. Actually Tuesday had been its earlier deadline for the county to submit a revised budget.

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